Our department co-organized an exceptional international workshop focusing on the evolving relationship between Central Europe and the United Kingdom!

9 May 2024

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Unique international workshop on relations between Central Europe and the United Kingdom co-organized by our department

At a time of substantial and ongoing political change in the 21st century, the relationship between the UK and its allies in Central Europe is an important and developing one. Not only is there an enduring economic partnership and a recognition of shared global challenges, but with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine the importance of defence co-operation has been given renewed emphasis.

On 25-26 April 2024, Faculty of Social Studies of Masaryk University in Brno hosted a very unique international workshop focused on the evolving relationship between Central Europe and the United Kingdom. Organized by Monika Brusenbauch Meislová from Masaryk University and Ed Turner from the Aston Centre for Europe at Aston University, this two-day international workshop was a collaborative effort involving the Aston Centre for Europe, Masaryk University, Faculty of Social Studies, the Department of International Relations and European Studies, and the International Institute of Political Science.

The two-day event brought together leading experts from academic, policy, and think-tank spheres to enhance and refine strategies for bolstering relationships in the rapidly evolving political landscape. Participants included prominent figures from the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and British embassies across Central European nations. Great universities such as, for instance, Aston University, Masaryk University, Warwick University, University of Birmingham, Charles University, Jagiellonian University, Central European University, or Comenius University were represented, too. The conference also drew contributions from top think-tanks and research institutions, both within the UK and internationally, including The UK in a Changing Europe, Europeum, Globsec, Slovak Foreign Policy Association, Institute of International Relations Prague, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Association for International Affairs, or the Centre for European Reform.

The format of the workshop was a highly interactive, innovative and engaging one. It featured a series of closed seminar discussions held under the Chatham House rule. To deepen the engagement and ensure more focused dialogue, each session concluded with breakout groups. These smaller, interactive groups aimed to foster detailed discussions on specific topics, enhancing the collaborative experience. Apart from that, a couple of engaging public events was designed for students to provide them with a chance to dive deep into vibrant discussion, have their voice heard, and make a difference in shaping bilateral relations.

The first one was a high-profile public debate on "The UK and Central Europe: Allies in Times of Global Challenge" (Thursday, 25 April). We were honored to have H.E. Matt Field OBE, the British Ambassador to the Czech Republic, as our keynote speaker. Joining him was an expert panel featuring Ed Turner from Aston University, Natasza Styczyńska from Jagiellonian University, Vít Hloušek from our own Masaryk University, and Vladislava Gubalova/Alena Kudzko from GLOBSEC, and Monika Brusenbauch Meislová from Masaryk University as the chair. This debate provided a unique platform where students could ask any questions they liked about the ongoing collaboration and challenges facing the UK and Central Europe, and was followed by a reception in the Atrium.

The following day (Friday, 26 April), we continued our explorations with an informal working lunch under the theme "The UK’s Relationship with Central Europe in Times of Political Change: Way Forward with Bilateral Relations?". This was an exceptional opportunity for students to engage directly with distinguished scholars, policymakers and think tank experts and to contribute to shaping the future of bilateral relations.

The workshop was overwhelmingly successful, as reflected in the enthusiastic (anonymous) feedback from some of the participants. These testimonials underscore the value and impact of the event, marking it as a landmark gathering that not only facilitated meaningful dialogues but also created a dynamic platform for multi-layered collaboration among experts and students alike.

  • “Thank you very much for hosting us for a fascinating two days. Great to be in Brno and the Faculty of Social Studies of Masaryk University - very useful discussions. Looking forward to the next one!” (Diplomat/public servant)
  • “A fantastic couple of days - thanks to Monika and Ed for organising an excellent set of roundtable discussions and to hosting us so well in beautiful Brno!” (Diplomat/public servant)
  • “Relevant topics, excellent experts, touch with students and ambassador, simply a perfect combination, it was a great event indeed.” (Academic)
  • “Two days at Masaryk University discussing the UK relations with CE in the context of upcoming European Parliamentary & US elections, war in Ukraine and bilateral cooperation. I am grateful for stimulating exchange, great atmosphere and new perspectives.” (Academic)
  • “Thank you so much for organizing these amazing events at FSS. The opportunity to hear live from personalities of such capacity is a joy and a privilege, and I am already looking forward to seeing who will visit our faculty next.” (Student)
  • “Hearing from leading experts in the field was fantastic. All three events were insightful and helpful.” (Student)
  • “What I liked best was the great group of experts, innovative format and short inputs.” (Think tank representative)

 

Report from the workshop

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